Monday Morning Brief | Reindeer mail

May 3, 2021, 12 AM

Just in time for Christmas, Scott catalog senior editor Tim Hodge discusses Alaska’s reindeer mail as part of his Monday Morning Brief series focusing on mail delivery and transportation.

Full Video Transcript:

Merry Christmas! Welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for December 25th My name is Tim Hodge. Continuing my series on the methods of mail transport, we are discussing reindeer mail. Although reindeer have been used for centuries as pack animals, and the Soviet Army used reindeer to carry supplies and wounded soldiers during World War II, the only example of a reindeer mail route was in Alaska.

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Cutter Service introduced Siberian and later Norwegian reindeer to Alaska as a mean of providing a livelihood to the native peoples. The first postal route was established by Sheldon Jackson from St. Michael to Kotzebue. Several other reindeer mail routes were established soon thereafter. Distances of 30 to 50 miles were usually covered by the service, with the reindeer carrying up to 400 pounds of mail. The longest reindeer mail route went between Kotzebue and Barrow, a round trip of 1,500 miles. These routes continued for probably a decade.

Jackson’s reports were positive. As the reindeer could graze along the way, they did not need food to be packed, unlike dog teams which consumed 22 to 35 pounds of fish per day. Although short lived, reindeer postal service sounds like a great way to get Christmas mail.

Thank you and have a Merry Christmas.